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Malcolm X biography

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Quick Facts

  • NAME: Malcolm X
  • OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, Minister
  • BIRTH DATE: May 19, 1925
  • DEATH DATE: February 21, 1965
  • EDUCATION: West Junior High School
  • PLACE OF BIRTH: Omaha, Nebraska
  • PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
  • Full Name: Malcolm Little
  • AKA: el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz
  • AKA: Malcolm X
  • AKA: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

Best Known For

African-American leader and prominent figure in the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X articulated concepts of race pride and black nationalism in the 1950s and '60s.


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Synopsis

Born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska, Malcolm X was a prominent black nationalist leader who served as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam during the 1950s and '60s. Due largely to his efforts, the Nation of Islam grew from a mere 400 members at the time he was released from prison in 1952 to 40,000 members by 1960. Articulate, passionate and a naturally gifted and inspirational orator, Malcolm X exhorted blacks to cast off the shackles of racism "by any means necessary,

Quotes

"Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action."

– Malcolm X

"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

– Malcolm X

"America is the first country ... that can actually have a bloodless revolution."

– Malcolm X

"You don't have a peaceful revolution. You don't have a turn-the-cheek revolution. There's no such thing as a nonviolent revolution."

– Malcolm X

"One of life's first needs is for us to be realistic."

– Malcolm X

"She was the first really proud black woman I had ever seen in my life. She was plainly proud of her very dark skin. This was unheard of among Negroes in those days."

[On his older half-sister, Ella.]

– Malcolm X

“If you are not willing to pay the price for freedom, you don't deserve freedom.”

– Malcolm X

“We want freedom now, but we're not going to get it saying 'We Shall Overcome.' We've got to fight to overcome."

– Malcolm X

“While we did not always see eye to eye on methods to solve the race problem, I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had the great ability to put his finger on the existence and root of the problem.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

“I believe that it is a crime for anyone to teach a person who is being brutalized to continue to accept that brutality without doing something to defend himself.”

– Malcolm X

“We are non-violent only with non-violent people—I’m non-violent as long as somebody else is non-violent—as soon as they get violent they nullify my non-violence.”

– Malcolm X

“Revolution is like a forest fire. It burns everything in its path. The people who are involved in a revolution don’t become a part of the system—they destroy the system, they change the system.”

– Malcolm X

“If a man puts his arms around me voluntarily, that's brotherhood, but if you hold a gun on him and make him embrace me and pretend to be friendly or brotherly toward me, then that's not brotherhood, that's hypocrisy.”

– Malcolm X

“You get freedom by letting your enemy know that you'll do anything to get your freedom; then you'll get it. It's the only way you'll get it.”

– Malcolm X

“My father didn't know his last name. My father got his last name from his grandfather and his grandfather got it from his grandfather who got it from the slavemaster.”

– Malcolm X

“To have once been a criminal is no disgrace. To remain a criminal is the disgrace. I formerly was a criminal. I formerly was in prison. I'm not ashamed of that.”

– Malcolm X

“It's going to be the ballot or the bullet.”

– Malcolm X

“I would like my children and generations to come to know this most important aspect of Malcolm X, that he was indeed our manhood, you know, our shining black prince who didn't hesitate to die because he loved us so.”

– Ossie Davis

" including violence. The fiery civil rights leader broke with the group shortly before his assassination, February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, where he had been preparing to deliver a speech.

Early Life

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm was the fourth of eight children born to Louise, a homemaker, and Earl Little, a preacher who was also an active member of the local chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and avid supporter of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Due to Earl Little's civil rights activism, the family faced frequent harassment from white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and one of its splinter factions, the Black Legion. In fact, Malcolm X had his first encounter with racism before he was even born.

"When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, 'a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home,'" Malcolm later remembered. "Brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out." The harassment continued; when Malcolm X was four years old, local Klan members smashed all of the family's windows, causing Earl Little to decide to move the family from Omaha to East Lansing, Michigan.

However, the racism the family encountered in East Lansing proved even greater than in Omaha. Shortly after the Littles moved in, in 1929, a racist mob set their house on fire, and the town's all-white emergency responders refused to do anything. "The white police and firemen came and stood around watching as the house burned to the ground," Malcolm X later remembered.

Two years later, in 1931, things got much, much worse. Earl Little's dead body was discovered laid out on the municipal streetcar tracks. Although Malcolm X's father was very likely murdered by white supremacists, from whom he had received frequent death threats, the police officially ruled his death a suicide, thereby voiding the large life insurance policy he had purchased in order to provide for his family in the event of his death. Malcolm X's mother never recovered from the shock and grief of her husband's death. In 1937, she was committed to a mental institution and Malcolm X left home to live with family friends.

Troubled Youth

Malcolm X attended West Junior High School, where he was the school's only black student. He excelled academically and was well liked by his classmates, who elected him class president. However, he later said that he felt that his classmates treated him more like the class pet than a human being.

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